No such thing as pink jobs and blue jobs
Asking for flexible working was simple for Joseph Everett, a Service Charge Officer for Sovereign, as his managers made it clear that a good work life balance was essential during the pandemic. But Joe realised that it was his own mind that had to be changed when it came to being a ‘stay-at-home parent’.
He said: “I feel quite embarrassed when I look back at some of the things I’ve said and thought about parenting over the years. My wife and I had our first daughter when we were in our early twenties, and I have to be honest, I never even questioned the fact that she would be the one that stayed at home and looked after the baby.
“Even after we had our second and third girls, I still assumed that she would take on that responsibility. In a previous job, there were times where I might get a phone call from school asking me to pick one of the kids up because they were poorly. I’d leave my office, walk down the road to Juliet’s work and tell her to go and get them. It never even crossed my mind that I could ask to leave early, or even that I could look after them when they were sick.
“It was pure societal stigma. I was repeating what I knew. My mum looked after me and my siblings. Dad worked. Mum didn’t. Simple as that. Of course, things are different in our house in that Juliet does work, but in the past I still justified it as ‘only part-time’. I never considered all the things she was juggling, the pressure she was under. She started her own jewellery business too and I just let her carry on managing it all.
“When the pandemic hit, it really gave us an opportunity to look closely at how our life was set up. Home schooling was the great leveller. We both took turns – if we weren’t ‘at work’ at the office in the bedroom, we were teaching and looking after the kids.
“On top of that, Sovereign made it very clear that I would be trusted to make work work for me – and that if I wanted flexible hours, all I had to do was ask. I changed my work pattern so that I worked three long days, a half day and had a day off. I spent that day with my littlest daughter – and you know what, it was fantastic, real quality time together, going to the park, playing in the mud kitchen, just hanging out.
“It made me feel like I got to be part of my family more. It’s nice to be part of school run and the daily routine, I feel like I’m seeing so much more of their development.
“My baby’s started nursery now, so I have switched back to normal hours. But I’ve not forgotten the lessons learned. My wife is often up late at night fulfilling jewellery orders, so now I’ll do the school run or other errands. I still have that good relationship with my boss, with my colleagues, that they know I’ll get things done. It feels good to be respected in that way.
“And at home? We share dinner, bathtime, bedtime, chores, homework duty. It’s a new kind of equality for us. OK, it’s just household day to day stuff, but there are no pink and blue jobs any more, and I like it so much better that way.”